Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Destroy All Creationists

[I came across a business card sitting in a shop that provided the reader with a link to a movie about how evolution fails as a theory. Naturally, I swiped the card so that no one else would be annoyed with this bullshit. The documentary – and I use that term loosely – Evolution vs. God can be watched here. If you have a high tolerance for stupidity, please watch. This blog is a reaction to this movie.]

“Science has proof without any certainty, Creationists have certainty without any proof.” Ashley Montague

What is evolution? Evolution is the genetic adaptation of organisms to their environments that results in heritable changes over time. Organisms that have unfavorable genetic adaptations eventually die off never to be seen again and/or are displaced by those with favorable mutations which may come to be regarded as different species. This is a reliable scientific theory (stronger than a hypothesis) pulled together from not just one field of science but from many fields of biological research. Though we have no direct evidence of one animal becoming another animal, we do know for certain that our planetary life forms do adapt to their environments. It is why bugs become resistant to exterminating chemicals in much the same way followers of organized religion have grown immune to logic. The construction of evolution as a factual concept is about as close to fact as an idea can be without direct evidence, so you'd think the idea of evolution would be no big deal.

The controversy surrounding the idea of evolution stems from the insistence of Western religious fundamentalists (whom I sometimes lovingly refer to as Fundies) that the origin of life on Earth is the product of divine intervention, as literally (or near literally) described in the Bible. Apparently, Fundies are upset over the idea that man evolved out of some primordial muck, while mysteriously being okay with the idea that God made humans from dirt. It seems to upset them to think of mankind as glorified apes, which I think we'll all agree are smarter than dirt. Still, their panties bunch up real tight when you mention evolution.

As everyone knows, or should know, the trouble really started in 1859 when Charles Darwin published "On the Origin of Species." Even though Charles was an agnostic, the Fundies felt his theory left no room for the divine creation of human beings. They began to worry that such a theory may then be applied to the entire universe. Understandably, the Fundies went ape-shit.

A few things have changed since 1859 and the 1925 Scopes Trial that convicted John T. Scopes of teaching evolution to his students. The problem faced by Fundies in those subsequent years was that science marched on, gathering more and more evidence to support Darwin's claim. Many creationists came to abandon Bible literalism in the following years in order to reconcile faith and science, what with the science being so damn overwhelming and all. Unfortunately, the less rational Bible literalists who were traditionally drunk with power over the ignorant prior to 1859 would eventually find a way to regain some of its former glory.

In recent years, the battle over evolution versus creationism has begun anew. A breed of creation "scientists" have evolved from the ashes of defeat who are attempting to use scientific findings to support their claims of God's direct creation of the universe and human beings, or at the very least provide an educated rebuttal to evolution such as it stands. Whereas they formerly despised science for revealing how the world works and possibly denying the existence of a god, they now want to use their former enemy as proof for what they've been claiming all along. Fundies seem to have adopted and adapted the attitude that if they can't beat 'em, join 'em. It's as if they're now saying, "Look! Look! See how complex and incredible the universe is? It had to be designed by (our) God. We told you so!" That's right. The universe is so incredible that only a super-powerful and vain pugilist could have caused them to lose their simian minds.

I will grant that evolutionary science is not yet complete and has not yet answered how life began or provided us with a direct glimpse of one species becoming another. It is possible that certain ideas within the field of evolutionary science are incorrect. But that's the great thing about science. Once we find out what doesn't work, we're that much closer to figuring out what does work. Because of this, the scientists who wish to believe in a god while also believing in such ideas as evolution are by-and-large Deists or agnostic. Scientists who wish to remain theistic also turn towards the notion that evolution is in fact true, but that evolution is guided by God’s hand. Heck, even Pope John Paul II admitted as much as does the current pope, Pope Francis. The Fundies on the other hand are just looking for facts to support their views and disregard everything else.

The position of these new creation scientists is untenable on a number of grounds: First, the appearance of complexity in the universe does not necessarily mean it is complex. Complexity is only relative to one's degree of understanding. [I take a lot of flack for this assertion, but it’s true.] Two, the possibility that life arose by chance only points to the possibility that an extraordinary event has taken place. In the event that the cosmos was designed by a being or beings more intelligent than we are only tells us exactly that. Evidence of design does not indicate the level of power or knowledge the creator or creators possess, nor their degree of "goodness." Also, if someone did create a universe just right for sustaining life, then it stands to reason that life is quite possibly the rule and not the exception. Even if evolution were false, it still would not mean we arrived here by the hand of any god.

All this aside, Fundies wish to assert that they know their god was responsible for the world. This stems from a desire to claim special knowledge and assert power over other people, which is what this whole issue is really about. Fundies want their thoughts of our origins taught in public school either as an opposing theory to evolution or in place of evolution while completely ignoring the competing creation accounts from other religions. For Fundies who are trying to establish dominion inAmerica, this issue is critical to their success. The "evolution vs. creationism" debate is an artificial argument created by those who want to spread their own religion. There is no objectivity in their views or science that backs up their claim. This is the logical outcome when the truth is not what Fundies are actually after. Organized religion isn't nearly as much about knowing the truth as it is about people trying to control one another and you don’t need to be a psychologist to figure that out. Would people like Osama bin Laden and Bush Jr. need to invoke God's name to make their cases for war if this weren't the case? Fundies know that getting their religion into public schools will bring them closer to turning America into a theocracy, having access to and indoctrinating a wide base of impressionable youths. As history has shown, theocracies have been nothing but fun for the whole family. (Of course, by “the whole family,” I mean just the men seeing how women are nothing more than cattle.)

Very unfortunately Fundie creation scientists have built a certain measure of clout, for instance, once being able to persuade the Kansas State Board of Education (KSBE) to hold “science meetings” to determine whether or not creationism should be taught alongside evolution or to perhaps throw out evolution altogether. During these particular proceedings Fundies will only point out which scientific facts appear to support their beliefs while ignoring what other evidences there might be of any other god or of evolution. History has shown this to be a step in a very dark direction. In fact, the last time this happened, Europe was drenched in the blood of non-believers. What does not seem obvious to the KSBE is that creationism is simply bad science devoid of any testable data and not open to peer review in scientific journals. As it is, America is falling behind as a leader in scientific advancement and will come to suffer dearly in the global economy if religion is allowed to assert its influence in the classroom. Teaching mysticism as science fact will only exacerbate America’s fall from scientific leadership.

If the Fundies want creationism taught in school, I really am fine with that. All they have to do is prove that the conclusions about life on Earth – conclusions drawn from facts over multiple disciplines – is completely wrong and that their evidences do not point to the existence of any other god(s). Oh, I would also ask them to provide evidence for a man and woman spontaneously popping into existence.

How life began on Earth, how it got here is an interesting question but not an important one. We need to deal with the fact that we are here so that we can all figure out where we're going – if we're going anywhere – and how to get there without causing our own extinction. Too bad religion tries to answer the question of how we got here in order to explain why we are here, and thus try to control everyone. Problem is, the why of life is a rhetorical question as asking why we are here implies some intelligence behind our existence. If you’ve even seen Keeping Up With The Kardashians, you know there is no intelligence behind our existence.  

So the next time you run into a creationist, make sure you're driving a bus. As they lie wounded and bleeding and they ask you why you would do such a thing, be creative. Tell them that you running them over would help make the world a better place but that you have no evidence to support your claim. They will gladly croak having identified with your special brand of reasoning. But take heart; the facts do take precedence on some stages, most importantly in court. That’s basically what happened in Dover, Pennsylvania in 2005 where U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled in a court ordered challenge to evolution that the Intelligent Design “theory” was in fact not science. That which makes more sense to you, evolution or creationism, will depend upon objectivity, not faith.

What follows is a link to the closing arguments delivered by Pedro Irigonegaray, an attorney for the proponents of evolution, to the Kansas State Board of Education in May 2005 during a modern day Scopes trial. I applaud the science coalition who held these hearings in contempt. I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Iregonegaray words. (It’s lengthy but worth it.) 

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